I work in an environment that has a fairly large Linux desktop fleet however previous jobs rarely had Linux as an option and if they did, it was limited to a few sysadmins.

Now that desktop Linux has gained a little more popularity, what is preventing you from deploying it in your environment?

Is it:

  • Software (lack thereof, incompatibility)
  • User comfort
  • Support tools (lack thereof or lack of knowledge in supporting Linux)
  • Licensing agreement lock in (hands are tied because you've agreed to a multi-year deal with another OS vendor)
  • Some combination of all of the above?
  • This should really be a community wiki question, since there's no "right" answer. – Bill Weiss Jun 7 '09 at 6:21
  • I (somewhat) disagree, there are many answers to this question, although if you're looking for a single answer, then yeah, this should be (and remain) a wiki. – Avery Payne Jun 8 '09 at 17:45
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    A discussion of desktop linux ... openreasoning.com/2009/06/… – tomjedrz Jun 9 '09 at 21:49

33 Answers 33


First off, this has been done. Seriously, the City of Largo in Florida has been running on Linux servers for over 6+ years, supporting hundreds of city employees. You can read about their challenges (and successes!) at the City of Largo work blog anytime. This is hardly a new topic, either. You can even buy a book on this subject and read up on what to expect (keep in mind that the book is several years old, and many references are probably out-of-date). It can also be used in a small business environment, as witnessed by the Ernie Ball Co., which switched to linux years ago and hasn't looked back since.

Addressing each question:

  • Software (lack thereof, incompatibility)

More often than not, there is some specific package that has been "grandfathered" into the system in some pseudo-critical role. At my own work, I can think of at least 2 Microsoft Access databases that would require a complete re-write in a different language with a different set of conditions.

As for "lack thereof", that's a function of how deep a niche role some software package will play...read my responses below...

  • User comfort

Never underestimate this. You would not believe the number of end-users that will throw a fit to actually keep the environment they have, no matter how crufty, old, poorly designed, frustrating, or labor-intensive it is. Seriously. In fact, the longer the end-user becomes accustomed to the interface, the more resistance they will have to learning a new one, because there is a substantial existing investment of their own time in the interface they already know.

  • Support tools (lack thereof or lack of knowledge in supporting Linux)

I don't think this is an issue. The environment has been around for so long, and so many admins have tried this on their own time, that there is little (if any) lack of qualified applicants for both junior and senior sysadmin positions. Saying there is a lack of support tools for Linux is roughly akin to saying "I can't Google an answer". There were - and still are - tools from years ago.

  • Licensing agreement lock in (hands are tied because you've agreed to a multi-year deal with another OS vendor)

This is probably a function of the size of an organization and the amount of software that they purchase. In those cases where there are few users, per-license or small batches of licenses are purchased on an as-needed basis. In much larger organizations, it's very tempting to sign a "faustian bargain" to get a 3-year contract covering thousands of desktops at a steeply discounted rate.

  • Some combination of all of the above?

There are many synergies involved (please do not stone me to death for using that overhyped buzzword...)

If you were to migrate an organization - of any size - to a pure-play Linux/BSD/OS X platform, I think you would have to cover the following aspects to make a successful transition:

  1. External Cultural Inertia (Management). Management has been signing over thousands of dollars each year to "buy" something that has tangible value. Convincing them that they are getting the same value with something that comes free is a hard pitch. There is a definite psychological link between the sense you've purchased something, and that it has some intrinsic value. This of course has been fully exploited by the industry for decades and as anyone who shops around knows, "buyer beware".

  2. External Cultural Inertia (End-Users). Users are a big bundle of mystery waiting to become an explosive backlash of "where's my files", "I can't click the link", "this used to work", "my printer settings didn't come back" (true OpenOffice story from the 1.x days), and my all-time favorite, "but the button in the toolbar used to be over there, now it's here? I can never find anything!" So many of them have settled into a culture of "don't know, don't care, don't want to go there" that explaining that the summation button in OpenOffice is the same Excel symbol in a different location is just not enough. They are doing things by muscle-memory and single-step handwritten checklists, and moving something just one pixel too far is asking them to change their world. If your organization is "young", or you have fluid staffing requirements, you can probably get away from this headache. If it's established, with employees that have been around for years (or decades!) then you're going to encounter fierce resistance.

  3. Internal Cultural Inertia. Your existing Windows sysadmins have been weened on multiple-inheritance access control lists, multiple GUI paths leading to the same result, and a habituation to working with "opaque" software that consists of "black box" lumps of code. Moving them into a culture where the permissions hierarchy is significantly flattened, there are multiple ways to arrive at a result from a (GASP! the horror!) command line, and the software is so transparent that they themselves are tempted to modify it, will be a huge culture shock. Some old-timers may actually be in disbelief that it is legal to actually copy the same software they are installing on their servers and take it home (yes, it's true, you can really do that, no really, it's ok, the BSA won't care...)

  4. Exchange. Getting off of Exchange is roughly akin to getting off of crack cocaine. There are so many organizations that are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. I say this with all sincerity. If you can at least replace the calendaring/free-busy/shared contacts portion of this, then you'll have fought only half of your battle. If you are using shared folders, custom forms, or other mucky-muck, you're pretty much in deep. Email, no matter how old it gets, still remains one of the silent killer apps of the internet - why else would you interface just about everything else - including websites - to such an archaic technology? Fuse this with irreplaceable contact information, and a TODO list about a mile long that is critical to keeping your job, and you suddenly realize that Exchange has your organization tightly held by the (censored-to-avoid-offensive-posting-votes).

  5. Microsoft Access. This little nugget will cause no end of heart-ache. Excel, Word, PowerPoint, those are down pat, but Access...Access is the fly trap of file-based database containers. There are a handful of tools to get the data out, but the key value of Access is not so much its use as a (abet crummy) database container, but rather, the forms, code, and reporting that come with it. You'll need to replace it with something that can provide forms, code, and reporting in a coherent package. And there aren't many of those packages around.

  6. ActiveX. This is a ticking time bomb. Any internally-deployed site within a large organization that uses ActiveX has pretty much fused themselves to a Windows platform, for better or worse. By the way, ActiveX often implies that you'll also contend with...

  7. Internet Explorer. For anyone who remembers the bad old days (version 6 and prior), enough said.

  8. Proprietary one-off software packages. If you have one of these, all bets are off. You know these when you see them, those packages that no-one else has, you paid a bundle of money to a niche vendor with no competitors, the software requires specific (outdated) versions of additional libraries, it is typically poorly written, crashes often, and the end-users are delighted that they can now click a button and it makes magic reports...

In the end, it's not about "superior technology" or "return on investment". It's about people and their inability to deal with change.

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    +1 for putting your finger on the real sore spot (being Exhange etc.) and busting some myths while you're at it (lack of support tools). – wzzrd Jun 8 '09 at 6:52
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    I agree that MS Access has little in the way of portability. – Christopher Mahan Jun 8 '09 at 7:15
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    Can anyone show me an open source groupware application that does even what exchange does out of the box? No forms, nothing custom, just the basic email, tasks, contacts, calendar, with a rich client cause webapps are too painful for daily use and intergrates to mobile devices? – SpaceManSpiff Jun 8 '09 at 16:22
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    @LEAT: Switching to Linux for cost savings is a tired mantra that's been repeated to get discounts on Microsoft licensing. If you're serious about switching to Linux, then you have to change your mind(set) with regard to how software and services are selected, acquired, maintained, upgraded, and obsolesced. In essence, the entire software lifecycle changes because the basis of what you are doing has changed. As long as you cling to your existing concept of what it should be, it will /never/ be a successful solution for you. So is it the wrong solution? That depends on many other factors. – Avery Payne Jun 8 '09 at 17:37
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    @LEAT: so to wrap it up: from your point of view, it will not now nor never will be, a potential candidate. And given some of the (strange?) comments I've seen posted on this topic so far, I don't think it will ever be ready for you. There's nothing wrong with that. You've got something that works for you. Go for it! Use it! Make it shine! Me, on the other hand, I've got my feet in /both/ worlds, and like there's a reason for each season, there's a time for each platform. So choose what works best for you, not what dogma is right. Choose wisely. – Avery Payne Jun 8 '09 at 17:52

Well I'll say why I wouldn't deploy a linux desktop fleet above Microsofts products, as of 2009 anyway:

  • Management on a large scale - nothing even close to Group Policy or Active Directory for Linux.

  • Usability - most users will be completely lost on a *nix system. Re-training several thousand people just to use an OS is not a trivial or cheap exercise without some proof of massive benefits.

  • Application support. Many systems in the corporate world are written for Windows. While some of the newer ones have had the foresight to develop in Java and therefore be cross-platform, there are many that havent.

In summary? Total Cost of Ownership. An often bandied about term but it's true. If an XP license costs $300, that may only be a days wage for a person. If that person needs a days training to learn a different OS, and then a week of impaired productivity as they get used to it, XP has already paid for itself a couple of times over.

Most people are also familiar with Outlook. An Exchange standard license costs around $700. Divide that among the number of users and, again, it pays for itself in preference to training users to use another tool.

Most end users just want to use the tools they know to do their job. Giving them the tools they already know how to use, even if they cost, is almost always going to be cheaper than re-training them to use "free" products.

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    usability doesn't count. Most employees use some arcane app that has a completely weird and wonderful user interface, or requires extensive training to learn how to use it. Office 2007 I'm looking at you :) (and all the other custom line-of-business apps like ERP, CRM, SOP apps that all work like nothing else on Earth). – gbjbaanb Jun 6 '09 at 20:22
  • You can do things like "Group policy" and AD with Linux, although it's not easy to set up in the first place, with things like Gosa+LDAP. I haven't looked into Fedora Directory Server but I understand they have similar things. – niXar Jun 7 '09 at 2:46
  • Group policy? Uhh, making changes across a lot of systems at the same time? You need configuration management on your Linux systems. AD is LDAP, and OpenLDAP fits the bill, and will connect to an existing AD too. – jtimberman Jun 7 '09 at 6:05
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    Usability does count. Those arcane apps exist, but users did not arbitrarily switch to using them from another app they already knew how to use that did the same thing but cost a little more. There is usually a legitimate business reason for each of those arcane apps. Your argument doesn't hold water. – Neobyte Jun 7 '09 at 6:05
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    The Exchange license doesn't cover the per-user licensing as well, which runs per-connect or per-person, along with the server licensing (a separate issue). That $700 is looking more like several thousand dollars, unless you have no fear of the BSA. And the only way to have no fear of the BSA is to use free software...sounds like this needs to be re-examined on a per-case basis. – Avery Payne Jun 8 '09 at 7:37

What is preventing us from deploying Linux desktops in our company?

We're all using Macs already ;-).

I do have a somewhat unique perspective. In the four companies I've worked at in the last 10 years of doing professional system administration (including IBM Global Services), I have had the option of using a Linux workstation, and did. Not to say this wasn't without struggles.

Company One

First company out of college was a Unix/Linux backup software company. The CEO mandated that since we develop software for Linux, everyone including nontechnical people had to use Linux as their desktop. He didn't exclude himself either, and he was very much not technical. Now this was in 1999-2000 to give a frame of reference. Desktop Linux was not sophisticated. GNOME was a very immature environment, and KDE wasn't much better. Hardware support in Linux itself wasn't near as good as it is now.


  • Streaming video. While rare, some of the stuff the marketing team worked with was Real Networks, and RealPlayer was spotty. I spent at least 2-3 hours a week re-explaining how to do things on Linux to the marketing team.
  • Printing. Ugh. I hate printing on Linux. Its not actually a lot better now than it was then, except maybe the tools are better. Printers suck. Oh and thats not Linux specific.
  • Office applications. Microsoft Office was of course the primary app used in the business world. We used StarOffice, and I hated it. Probably due to printing problems.

Company Two

This was IBM! I worked as a system administrator in eBusiness, and since late 2000, IBM has maintained an internal Linux deployment stack, which installed all the IBM required software like the labor claiming tool, the printing tool (heh!), Lotus Notes (w/ WINE), Lotus Sametime, and the VPN software. This 'distribution' went through many iterations and got really good by the time I left IBM in 2007. It was rough but usable for several years, but with Lotus Notes 8 and Lotus Sametime having "native" Linux clients (read: Java-based), it was actually about as usable as Windows (which I don't consider usable :-)).


  • Printing again. Even though IBM has sophisticated printers and tools for configuring them, printing still sucks.
  • Lotus Notes. This was primarily an issue with Notes itself being a heaping pile of garbage :). When they went from being an unofficial (but developed internally) WINE stack to a Java client, this got a lot better. I still hate Notes though.
  • Lotus Sametime. The native Sametime client on Windows was (is?) horrid. There were several internal projects including a perl/gtk program, a couple trillian plugins, and a GAIM/Pidgin plugin. Eventually they went with a somewhat decent, usable client with 7.5.
  • Office software. This is primarily IBM hanging onto Lotus products for dear life. There were no open office plugins to convert, at least until the open office integration into Notes 8.
  • IE only CRM. One of the ticketing tools we had to use was a Siebel CRM which didn't work with any browser except IE6. Further, if a certain critical patch were installed (which was auto installed by the IBM patch manager, it wouldn't run. Full of fail and lose.
  • Unique IBM challenges. Such as the CRM issue above, but others as well, too numerous to iterate here :-).

Company Three

I worked for a security training company that uses Linux for all the company infrastructure and backend support. All the admin staff used Linux either as primary workstation OS, or secondary workstation. Adoption of Linux for non-sysadmin staff probably resembles the challenges faced by other companies.


  • Prevalance of Outlook and shared calendaring, but actually a lack of it! Because the company is security focused, they are "we must own and control everything" focused. We didn't have an Exchange server, shared calendaring in effect really just didn't exist. During the infrastructure upgrade I was hired on mainly to work on, we installed Zimbra, and while the user migration from the old email to Zimbra took place after I left, I heard it was a smashing success and the shared calendaring in Zimbra was very popular feature indeed.
  • Office software. Particularly PowerPoint presentations. All the training materials were written by the courseware authors primarily in PowerPoint. There really isn't an equal on Linux. Nuff said.
  • User training. Most people were used to Windows from their home systems and other positions, so retraining 100 people would have been cost prohibitive.

Company Four

Ah, the company I'm at now. We all use Macs. We use Google Apps, so no shared calendaring woes there, no client access license costs (though probably a per-user cost, which is much less than Exchange!). We thrive on open source software (we're an open source company!), and of course for those that need it, Microsoft Office (or iWork) is available anyway. I'm not one of those people, so it's wonderful being 100% Microsoft-free for work purposes (I still use it for gaming!).

I've noticed as I get more exposure to the startup world, many more startups are using Macbooks + Google Apps == the win. Linux servers are usually a cloud node running the web site, code is hosted on GitHub (public or private repositories), DNS is outsourced.

End Thoughts

So while many people point out the "more obivous" reasons why Windows stays its ground and Linux is not as widely deployed, there are fewer challenges to switching now than there have been. Many of the arguments against Linux are unfounded to those in the know anyway, TCO being the biggest argument, since thats what Microsoft spends billions of dollars of marketing FUD spreading. TCO is a subjective answer to an issue of diverse topic, IMO, because while models can predict costs, they don't always hit the exact problem space of every company.

  • I don't think the Microsoft TCO argument is FUD at all. Pick a random company that employs 20-30 people that you drive by every day. Guess how many IT people they likely employ? -- Probably 0.2, because they have a service provider drop by and help the receptionist setup computers once a week. Try doing that with Linux. The first time someone tries to do something with Flash or read a Excel 2007 spreadsheet, you've blown your TCO out of the water. – duffbeer703 Jun 8 '09 at 0:59
  • There have been studies by independent research groups that dispute the issue of higher TCO for Linux and blatantly call it MS FUD. I don't know about Flash, but in my experience if you set up user workstations to open Excel spreadsheets in OpenOffice, they uh, open in OpenOffice just fine. – jtimberman Jun 8 '09 at 14:50
  • And when the receptionist needs to setup a new security group, file share, email/user and so on? I'm that 0.2 tech guy for 20-30 user companies and all the routine stuff is easily trainable to the onsite person. The workstations are locked down using GPO, and its the same desktop people use at home. Worst case $250 gets an MS tech on the line and the issue is with either their server or their workstation so guess what, no finger pointing at other guy's software. – SpaceManSpiff Jun 8 '09 at 16:39
  • I would say that CUPS is much better printing system than the windows one. The drivers for cheap printers can be a horror though. But if you are using a business grade printer it will either support standard PostScript or just have good linux drivers. – Hubert Kario Oct 7 '10 at 15:59
  • @SpaceManSpiff Both RedHat and Novell do provide Linux on-the-phone support. – Hubert Kario Oct 7 '10 at 16:00

Well, because none of software used in my office has the linux version. So I guess software incompatibility is no. 1 reason why we can't adopt Linux in office.

  • Doesn't have a linux version or doesn't have a FLOSS substitute that is 'good enough'? (e.g. Photoshop vs GIMP) – Ophidian Jun 8 '09 at 15:55
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    Just because A (GIMP) has feature comparability to B (Photoshop), does not make it sane or economic to replace B (Photoshop) with A (GIMP). As mentioned elsewhere in the comments, if it's going to cost you x times the value of your employees time to retool/retrain them for FLOSS "A", it's insane to charge your business/customers because you have a new religion. Your primary religion in business is servicing your customer cost-effectively so you and they can make a profit. Otherwise, drink the kool-aid. – samt Jun 22 '09 at 12:14
  • People want to use software packages, they do not want to use a specific operating system. Just like games sell game consoles, applications sell platforms to run them on. Forcing a skilled artist to replace Photoshop, Illustrator or Maya when they have tens of years of experience isn't exactly efficient unless the software and user is doing basics like Office data entry, support or basic analysis and management (even if Blender with the fugly UI mostly hidden happens to be a relatively painless substitute to a skilled hotkey-navigating Lightwave user) ^^ – Oskar Duveborn Sep 1 '10 at 10:39

Because every single user 'NEEDS' Microsoft Office...?

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    Several of our clients have made the switch over to OpenOffice.org without much hassle. Its actually surprising how LITTLE Microsoft Office is "needed" when upper management sees the $$$ savings and "forces" the switch. I've also had clients who have switched 30-50 employees over and then kept ONE computer with ONE copy of MS Office "just in case". LOL – KPWINC Jun 6 '09 at 16:40
  • And there are several organisations, large and small using pirated Microsoft products (where management sees $$$ savings and "forces" the switch). I've seen organisations with 1,000+ employees using pirated software of various types, mostly MS Office. Funnily, the OO advocates use MSO because it's easier, although they rant every opportunity for everyone else to use it. LOL. I use both products in differing contexts, both with their benefits/trade-offs. – samt Jun 24 '09 at 6:47

It all comes down to one word. "Value". Linux is not currently a good value, even though it is "cheaper" than the competitor.

Companies are concerned about quarterly costs and revenue. Therefore, especially in this economy, they're not willing to take a huge financial hit to train new staff so they can save money over 5 years. If they don't save money NOW they won't be there in 5 years.

On top of that, not only will they have to train staff, they will have to put up with reduced productivity and "growing pains" of learning how to use the new products. That also hurts the bottom line.

The fact is, and perhaps ironically, a downturn economy is not the time to be switching to a zero license cost product. But then again, a good economy has no reason to switch so it's a catch-22.

Even if you factor in the costs of virus removal, anti-virus, anti-spyware, etc.. those are costs that are amortized over many quarters, not a gigantic hit upfront.

That doesn't even begin to take into account all the vertical software out there that has no Linux equivelent. All that VB code will have a hard time being ported to Linux. Sure, you can use a VM, but then you're still paying for your windows license on top of all the costs of migrating.

  • No one says that you have to migrate whole company at once. You can start with migration to Firefox/Thunderbird/OpenOffice on Windows, and then roll out Linux to groups of workstations. The costs will be spread over time this way and the users will have time to accustom with new software. – Hubert Kario Oct 7 '10 at 16:03


A lot of us 'think' there will be much savings since we won't be paying hefty M$ taxes, and server license/support/update/patch agreements for a bunch of services, but we don't actually have much data to back that up, nor we have the leadership needed for such an 'out of the box' thinking.

We need a visionary who'll able to convey the practical and financial solutions that Open-Source provides. He/She not only needs to convince administration, but his/her own team. The way I see it now, in my department, maybe the best solutions is to find an outside consultant who could lead/manage such a project, but that is also not practical since we're really talking about 'customized' solutions which would be pretty expensive by itself.

We're not there yet, but doesn't mean we will never get there.

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    Ever so true. Vision and a solid concrete set of balls too. Otoh, the city of Amsterdam has just committed to a long term migration path, so the people who have the balls & vision do exist ;-) – wzzrd Jun 8 '09 at 6:54

Many reasons:

  1. Employees must be trained again
  2. Case sensitive file systems + unexperienced users = disaster; i have seen dozens of files like "scholarship.ods", "Scholarship.ods", "scholarship.ODS" - they simply cannot understand this, and end to send always the wrong document via email
  3. No microsoft office - clients always come with documents using microsoft-specific features, so we cannot open it with openoffice
  4. customers will think "hey, they use linux because they cannot afford windows licenses"

and so on


Applications, applications, applications!

When a company has significant investments in Windows-only software and devices and the training that goes along with them, it will never be cost-effective to make a whole-company change in platform. The Windows license cost, included in the price of a new machine, is miniscule compared to the expenditure required to change tens or hundreds of applications and retrain users. It may be feasible to move some machines to Linux if the number or type of applications is limited, such as in a single department or for kiosks; however, why increase the number of platforms and associated administrative burden for a small number of deskops when you are already supporting two or three versions of desktop Windows in the rest of the company, and when the existing solutions works fine?

Linux as a desktop operating system is only viable in corporations that already have Windows-based systems when the following is true:

[cost of replacing all Windows-only applications]
+ [cost of administrator training]
+ [cost of user training]
[cost of existing software license and maintenance agreements]
+ [Windows license portion of new machine cost each year] × n,

where n is the number of years over which management can depreciate all the costs on the left side of the inequality. This also requires that the company has enough cash on hand or is willing to borrow enough to pay for those costs.


There is some small demand in the computer labs for linux machines, but the large majority of them require Windows for various windows-only software packages. Our standard lab build includes a lot of software, and a good amount of it only exists in Windows, or their Linux/FOSS versions are sub-standard. On the one hand open-office usage is increasing, which is encouraging.

The other thing is that our desktop function knows what the heck it is doing on Windows, but a good... 80% of them only know enough bash to navigate around a file structure much less fix broken stuff. Considering how much trouble I've gone to in attempting to change how they install applications, changing the operating system is something that would have to come from senior management.

And then there is price. We're on a Microsoft Campus Agreement, so desktop OS is pretty darned cheap. Did you know that if you go true blue end to end it actually is cheaper than trying to do it with best-of-breed software packages? Considering the budget crisis we're going through, senior management has noticed that and is so far the only instance I can find of, "spend a little to save lots."


Users are the main problem, and 'weird bugs' are another problem. We're more comfortable supporting Windows on the desktop at this point, and there's no reason to change now that Windows 7 doesn't look to be a turd.

For what it's worth, there's only one person left in our entire IT office who uses Windows on their desktop; we're all on various flavors of linux or OSX. It's impossible to do this with normal users though because we don't understand yet how to deploy good security practices for desktop users, how to make sure they have all the software they need all the time, and how to make sure that when something breaks they don't blame Linux.

Frankly, Linux is still not ready for non-power-user desktops without extensive and experienced support or extremely limited requirements.

I have supported a LTSP install with 30 clients. It was nice, but they ended up switching away from it due to firefox problems.

  • I have an old Fujitsu Laptop and a "newer" HP desktop. BOTH have problems installing and running Linux/Ubuntu out of the box. It has been a running joke for some time that Ubuntu is not ready to deploy until "my mother can install it". The Fujitsu wireless network doesn't work and the HP has a video driver issue. When Ubuntu 9.04 came out BOTH computers installed and ran flawlessly. So... now I guess I'm going to have to install it on my mother's computer to get rid of her Windows virus problems. LOL – KPWINC Jun 6 '09 at 16:43
  • I installed Ubuntu 8.10 to my mother, who lives 1200km away from here after a virus completely destroyed her HD. Se saw a little uprgade button when 9.04 went out and she clicked. The only problem she had, was that pidgin stopped working due to APT-GET not removing her previous configuration folder (.purple). She complained that her HP printer didn't work. I connected it and started working without me doing anything. She hadn't tryed because "it wouldn't work". So there, the problem is not the OS, is lazyness. :P – voyager Jun 6 '09 at 18:56
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    Yeah, to clarify: the problem with deploying linux in our environment is the users, not the software. However, it is a real problem. I'm hoping things get better when current college students, many of whom are used to OSX, get up to management. – Karl Katzke Jun 6 '09 at 20:59

Users need MS office. Excel really is a lot better than anything else. Other word processors might be acceptable, but it doesn't matter if users refuse to accept it.

Shared calendaring. Outlook is the only decent email client.

Many websites work only with IE. This is changing, but still too many to sacrifice a business over.

Third party software - most totally critical to the business. With RedHat backing away from Linux on the desktop, there is less and less of a chance that certain software will ever have a Linux version.

So far as usability, I saw a major switch from Solaris to Windows on the desktop about 7 years ago. Users had constant usability complaints, and software was installed to provide virtual desktops, etc. But when they found out that they could use Excel and Outlook, it was all worth it.

No vendor stands behind Linux on the desktop. Ouch.

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    Your point about IE is viable, but only because those companies let them. Currently our manufacturer website "requires" Active X. Active X searches for the version numbers of existing adobe flash/shockwave and .NET. All of that can be accomplished on a cross platform solution, like a Java applet or event through flash itself, but it's the manufacturer NOT changing their website. I feel you pain, but we both know it's laziness on their part, not technology – bobby Jun 6 '09 at 20:16
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    Outlook is not a decent email client. I spent more time managing user PST files that were corrupt at a previous employer. – jtimberman Jun 7 '09 at 6:07
  • PST files - ugh! Outlook with Exchange doesn't need PST files, so that argument seems valid only in limited circumstances. – Maximus Minimus Jun 7 '09 at 14:06
  • I've been using Internet email for 18 years (wow, I feel old). I never found an email client I was happy with until outlook (although for personal use I use yahoo and gmail webmail). PST corruption is one individual bug. You can't compare a single bug with horrific design flaws and deficiencies. To list the things that Outlook makes easy to do that previous MUAs made hard almost seems a joke, because the idea that these features would be missing is laughable. Some Outlook clones are decent enough, but why did we have to wait for Microsoft to make a decent solution and the cloning of that. – carlito Jun 7 '09 at 23:28
  • Any company using PST when they have an exchange server should re-evaluate why? I haven't used a PST in 7 years – SpaceManSpiff Jun 8 '09 at 16:29

Being audited by the BSA.

The first time you get audited by the BSA for your Microsoft licenses, and you get raped and reamed for paper filing issues that has nothing to do with willful piracy of Microsoft software, then you will find that switching to Linux or Mac has some major advantages and you will find plenty of ways of justifying why you want to switch, and your employees will switch and find ways of making it work.


Company IT-strategy.


There is one very huge problem as users. They've been workig in Windows environment for 10..15 years, so they just don't even know, sometime, that there is an alternative systems exsts. Also, there is a number of applications, which don't have Linux-compatible versions, and those people who works with that programs just doesn't want to study anything new. I thing, that's absolutely wrong, but still didn't found the way to solve the problem.



  • From dev's point of view, that would mean finding an alternative to Visual C++, and a way to mantain the existing software compiled with that app.
  • Creatives should find an alternative to Photoshop, Flash, etc.
  • The Call Center should find an alternative to our main CRM app (Windows/IE only).
  • From the users' point of view, that would mean searching for some office suite that has equivalents of Word, Outlook, etc.

That alternative doesn't exist, IMHO, still.


It doesn't, but then again I am working in a company specialized in open-source solutions and support. And for everybody that says that the TCO of ownership of MS products is lower because of familiarity should realize that every user at least at one point had to be trained, whatever the software package is.

If a company relies on pre-trained people to do their job in a specific way you want, the conclusion is usually; it isn't done the way you want, you have frustrated employees and/or the cost of your tools is unnecessary high.

  • Politics.

  • Lack of knowledge.

  • Abversion to risk.

Take your pick.


One thing that people have missed here is cost.

If you are big enough to have a Microsoft ELA, you will need to continue to pay for Microsoft licensing on Linux PCs, since the ELA applies to all computers that aren't servers, kiosks or appliances.

Moving to desktop Linux requires an investment in infrastructure and support at least as costly as supporting Windows. But you still need to invest in Microsoft's technology unless to make a full switch or are too small to have an ELA.

IMO, Macs are the only non-Microsoft desktop platform with the management capability to be a viable corporate desktop.

  • 2
    What you describe is clearly anti-competitive behaviour, I thought that kind of things had been forbidden to them. As for management capabilities, I don't know what you're talking about. Linux can do everything Macs can do in that respect, and then more. – niXar Jun 7 '09 at 2:43
  • There's a difference between what you can do and what you do do. How about policy-based management of user permissions? Computer settings? Default browser homepage? Printer configuration? It all can be done with Linux, but you're rolling your own solutions and frankly wasting alot of time. If you have a company of programmers and IT folks, Linux rocks on the desktop. Unfortunately, that describes like 1% of companies. – duffbeer703 Jun 8 '09 at 0:54

This is something that we considered when we originally implemented Windows 2000, and it comes up a coupla times every year. Back then (2001), we felt that Linux was just nowhere near ready for serious consideration as a Desktop OS for the non technical end user. A short time back it seriously looked as though switching to Linux would involve considerably less work on our behalf than switching to Vista would (both from XP). Now with Windows 7 looking as though Microsoft actually sat up and took notice of stuff, I'm not so sure.

Which brings me to one of major things that would hold us back: the amount of effort involved in switching. Sure the two can interoperate to an extent, but it's by no means totally seamless. See, Linux right now is just fine on the end user desktop (most of our users just have a few app icons and some shared folders and printers - so long as they don't have to dive into the command line it's not going to present any difficulties for them). Likewise it's just fine on the server. But making the two meet in the middle is where the real work is, and I don't see Linux out of the box giving me anything close to what Windows out of the box gives me.

Anyway, most of the arguments in favour of Linux are sound and valid under certain assumed circumstances. If I had a small network, or a technically focussed user base who were prepared to put up with a certain level of disruption, it would be feasible. With the amount of non-technical end users and sites I have, it's just not a runner. The install/configure/test cycle would just prevent us from doing anything productive for such a long time, and that's even before we start adding on additional stuff like LDAP.


The tireless efforts of the Microsoft 'Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt' division :)


We don't use Linux for several reasons:

  1. We are already a mixed shop with PC's and Macs. Adding a third platform would really complicate things.

  2. We have line-of-business machines that will never be able to run Linux. And we need these machines to do our business.

  3. We have video editing and CG applications for which Linux will not do the job. The people who use these apps are not computer geeks and are in some cases barely video proficient so it's iMovie/Final Cut for them, full stop. It is not acceptable to say "that almost works" or "it'll work someday, here's a C++ compiler, go work on it.!"

  4. Many Linux consultancies, and indeed, much of the Linux business itself, are not aimed at small shops.

  5. The last reason is community. We run Windows SBS. All of us who run Windows SBS shops essentially know each other; it feels like a close-knit community, even though SBS has been a popular product for over 10 years.

Linux is undeniably popular amongst geeks; I have tinkered with it off and on for all the years it's been around.

"Community" is much-touted for Linux. Yet, I've found much of the Linux community to be insular; by their own words, "they scratch their own itch". Too much of the community hears a problem and says, "Oh, here's a compiler, go fix!", as if coding is the whole thing.

In my town, I sit on a commission for people with disabilities. It is a high-profile job and everyone knows I'm on it and they know where I work and what my IT shop is like. I have been grilled at meetings for our choice of IP phones (the phones, by the way, are completely accessible for people with hearing impairments; I know this first-hand, that's why I picked them.)

I criticized ESR for saying, once, that it was better to focus on the needs of the many "regular" people than it was to serve the needs of people with disabilities.

Linux, of course, has accessibility code in it, but it was donated to the community; most of the community would have never thought of that. Imagine telling your accountant who needs large text, "oh, but there are many more people with good vision".

That would get us sued. ADA compliance is an important part of the workplace.

What the Linux community does, and what sysadmins need and what their companies need, are not at all the same, and so far, the Linux community doesn't have the introspection to realize this.

If Exchange goes down, I have resources to call upon, and others in the community who've been there and can help. Then, failing that, we spend the $250 for Microsoft but they will stay on that one issue and fix it (I have never had to do this in ten years of being an admin.)

Linux? I can hear the responses, "Oh, get a different distro! Why don't you write up a patch? You didn't need that working anyway, do something else!" And it's not true that it will be "free beer"; I expect to have to pay for an SBS or an Exchange replacement; can they give me that same support? Will we pay for a support contract and be told, "here's the compiler--make your customizations"?

Once we have to pay for contracts, justification for Linux becomes a lot murkier. I'm aware of the difference between the "free beer" and "free speech" tropes, but it seems many Linux advocates, even in this thread, seem to gleefully conflate the two.

It's more than just "use xxx to replace yyy", it's the whole ecosystem and it's just not a good fit for us.


I know of one main reason:


It manifests itself in many forms. I've cited a couple below:

You hear/read statements like "Management on a large scale - nothing even close to Group Policy or Active Directory for Linux". Obviously this is not the case.

TCO statements which imply that training for Linux costs money but somehow everybody is born knowing Microsoft Windows.

What this leads to are things like the following that prevent company's from deploying Linux on some level other than as a sysadmin tool:

  1. IT departments that are reluctant to use/deploy Linux because of their own ignorance on the subject. This is not meant to be critical of IT departments but is just meant to point out that they too suffer from the problem of "staying in our comfort zone" just like the rest of society does.

  2. Legacy apps. So much money has been poured into these (either off the shelf products or those developed in-house) that the cost, either real or imaginary, of replacing them seems to be too great by the decision makers.

Actually I should modify my above statement to read "Education" and "Microsoft Marketing Department".

All this said, a company shouldn't deploy Linux (or any other OS) unless it has a good cost effective reason to do so. It should, however, be looking at it's costs going forward and seeing what will be the most cost effective solution(s) for the future of the company.


Surprised no-one's mentioned what I reckon is the no.1 reason - time.

We don't have the time to migrate or plan a future migration. Buying licenses is cheaper than paying more IT people to move us all to Linux.


I've been working in a completely Linux desktop using company for two years now, and my own desktop has been linux based for over 6 years now.


The fact that it's so hard for someone who comes straight from windows, to find out how to install the most recent packages. The concept of packages was alien to me untill I first tried ubuntu, and the commandline was just scary.

Also, the linux folder structure is very weird, if you're used to windows only. Where are you important files? Where do I need to go to edit something? It's all so weird.

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    as if the registry is any better than /etc =) – Commander Keen Jun 6 '09 at 16:32
  • Registry is fairly easy actually. At least, if you've used it for a while. Then again, you can probably say the same for the linux folder structure :) – KdgDev Jun 6 '09 at 19:18
  • The amount of time spent in the file structure is about a million times different than the time spent in the registry... I know we all have registry horror stories from the Windows 95 days, but think about it. How often do you actually spend in the registry? Once a month? Once every six months? Once while setting Windows up initially to tweak a particular power user setting? – Sean Earp Jun 6 '09 at 22:26
  • This question is about what is stoping people deploying Linux in a medium/large enviroment, not personal workstations. As such, it would seem that capable professionals would understand the concept of a repository. If you are windows-only you could assiosiate it with msi packages deployed through AD. – voyager Jun 7 '09 at 1:34
  • 2
    /etc can be thought of as more the .ini days of windows but in a more structured central location Both the registry and /etc has it's benefits. I prefer /etc personally because I always know where to look. Config files usually have methods of commenting and are plain english. A centralized configuration database won't work for linux any time soon because of the number of legacy applications I do feel that the registry has been led off the rails and has become a dumping ground for random scatterings of data. There is just too much low level program data in there that isn't user interpretable – Garry Harthill Jun 7 '09 at 3:04

I exclusively run Linux servers at work, and desktop Linux at home. I would sincerely love to run all Linux clients (Samba somehow seems like "cheating" to me) at work but the software we use is heavily tied to Windows and there aren't any Linux alternatives.

The software itself isn't bad but it's heavily based in .NET which is obviously very Windows specific, and I wouldn't ever feel comfortable running our main productivity software in Wine (if it seemingly worked).


One of the projects I am watching intently is ReactOS, which is an open source clone of Windows that is (almost) 100% binary compatible. That means, you can switch to an OS where you have the source code to your kernel, basic OS and most applications while continuing to use MS office, Adobe stuff, etc.

Once its fully stable (its close now), the payback is instant, users are familiar with how it works right away .. and you can keep all of your existing applications.

Even though Ubuntu is really advancing, I (as a programmer and systems integrator) have had a hard time selling it as a desktop option to enterprise customers.

The question also hinges on where you are geographically.. you would find a much better reception to more Linux based desktops in Asia and parts of Europe than you would in the US (from my experience, anyway).

  • Oh I love the (almost) part. Sounds good though I'll check it out – SpaceManSpiff Jun 8 '09 at 16:44

Nothing. We already migrated everything in our company, and also about 70-80% of computers of our customers.

All it took was to convince the top-level management. Once those who have power in the company decide it's time to switch, none of the I "need" MS Office whining helps.


I know that this is ugly and sad to say but for region from which I come this is 70% of not using Linux:

"As far as We can use a Microsoft's products and other good product without paying Licenses for it, people will not be a lot of heated for going on Linux, once when it change maybe it is going to be late for many of them But as some one already mentioned they missing vision"

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